WASHINGTON -- The nerves were unrelenting. The nights, sleepless. The anticipation, endless.Ever since winning the inaugural All-Star Armed Services Home Run Challenge presented by T-Mobile on Friday, both U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jacob Hensal and Naval Cryptic Technician Russ Newbern couldn't have expected to be where they were Monday night:
WASHINGTON -- The nerves were unrelenting. The nights, sleepless. The anticipation, endless.
Ever since winning the inaugural All-Star Armed Services Home Run Challenge presented by T-Mobile on Friday, both U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jacob Hensal and Naval Cryptic Technician Russ Newbern couldn't have expected to be where they were Monday night: in the batter's box at Nationals Park. And the country was watching.
"There's really nothing like it," Newbern said, adding with a laugh: "I know I keep saying that, but there's no words to describe it."
Newbern -- the victor in the original challenge with five homers -- didn't perform to the standard he set for himself Friday, failing to homer in the 60 seconds allotted to each batter in the breaks of T-Mobile Monday's Home Run Derby . Hensal, who won via walk-off homer in a playoff after a first-round tie, hit a homer about 15 seconds into his turn for yet another walk-off win on the big stage.
"I was nervous," Hensal said. "[Newbern] hit a bunch on Friday, so he had me worried the whole time, honestly. But it felt great."
Despite the high stakes of their everyday life in the military, both participants said Monday's derby was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in their life. It was aided by chatting and getting tips from the Major League All-Stars to quell some of those nerves.
"They're like, 'Just relax, swing smooth and it'll be fine,'" Hensal said. "It helped a lot, actually."
"And we got Freddie Freeman's autograph," said Newbern, who wore a Braves hat during his turn at the plate on Friday.
A member of each branch of the Armed Forces competed in the Home Run Challenge that followed the inagural All-Star Armed Services Classic presented by T-Mobile. Hensal and Newbern -- the winners -- were joined by Chris Maddox of the Marines, Matthew Campbell of the Air Force and Ken Glover of the Coast Guard.
The competition followed the inaugural All-Star Armed Services Classic championship game between the Army and Air Force after all five branches competed in a round-robin tournament in early June. Hensal and his Army squad fell to the Air Force, 9-2.
"There's more to the military than going and serving. You get to do stuff like this," Newbern said of what he hopes people take from the event. "[It will hopefully] open their eyes about the opportunities you can get by being in the military."
"Anything is possible when you have an opportunity like this," Hensal added.
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver .